Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ramblings from an itinerate

When we arrived at Lake Kariba I was stunned by her beauty, it was sunset, natures own make up, a perfect time of day that makes everything beautiful, not that the Lake needed much help. The sky was working her magic well... like a water colour painting, colours filled the sky merging into one.

We quickly boarded our boat, a monster with room for 30 people, bar, roof top terrace and spa bath (minus the bubbles). Somehow I managed to secure a birth all to myself, something that has more to do with my unpopularity with the girls than anything else. My cabin with it's bunk beds, en suite and wood panelling was pure luxury compared to my canvas tent. I took no time in spreading out utilising my two spare beds as luggage storage and space for Nelson ( i have been reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography).

That night, i sat at the bar with Lucy the English owner of the boat and we spoke about African politics, Africans and the problems of Africa late into the night.

Lucy, originally from Derby had been in Africa for 12 years and based in Zambia for about 5 and knows Africa well. I found our conversation illuminating, disturbing and her honesty frightening.

Lucy is opinionated (despite not wanting to appear that way at first)with strong and interesting views on Africa and Africans.

Similarly to my arrogant pariah Paul Theroux Lucy felt that it is Africans' themselves that need to fix Africa.

As an aside the longer i spend here i am beginning to wonder what is actually meant by the idea of 'fixing'. I think about it often and wonder if it is another term for colonise, westernise or Christianise or does it mean alleviate poverty or even still are those objectives one and the same. I am battling that question and i don't know the answer, just being here challenges my ideas of what is right or wrong (ie a lot of aid seems to destroy responsibility) and I fear I am becoming racist and insensitive to the plight of others but these big questions pose paradoxes that are not simple to untangle.

Lucy spoke openly about the damage that aid is doing and the problems that arise from our western 'do gooder' attitude born out of love (or is it ego) towards Africa. A lot of African countries are utterly dependent on aid (fact) which has apron strings attached. Sometimes the aid giving is utterly inappropriate but meant well and at other times aid acts as a tool to further entrench poverty by deniyng people the opportunity to fend for themselves and take responsibility. Things like micro finance schemes (which i think are excellent) go someway to removing this dependence.

Lucy, like PT criticised aid agencies for their lavish spending (they all seem to have brand new land drovers)and goes further branding do gooders as being a big part of the problem. In Lucy's eyes and in her experience Africans live day to day thinking only of the next meal and the way to get through the day- is this because long term thinking is not a part of the African phyche or is it born out of circumstance- don't you just love how everything goes back to nature vs nurture??? To illustrate the point i was told a story which i will attempt somewhat ineloquently to retell here

A fisherman sits under a tree at 10:00am drinking a beer, a white man approaches him and says 'why are you not still fishing the day is young?' the African man replies 'I have caught all i need' to which the white man replies 'but have you thought if you fished longer maybe you would make a profit and in time you could buy a second boat which your brother could fish from, and then in time you could by a third boat and your cousin could fish from that one and then you could sit under a tree at 10:00am and drink beer everyday to which the African replies 'but that is what I am doing'.

Rob's idea to this quandary is a good one but born out of his studies as an economics student way back when... trade and tourism, plain and simple. I like it a lot and am yet to fault too much of it. His motto is spend big when you travel, buy local and visit far and wide- not a bad solution for an itinerant like me.


When we weren't debating the value of aid vs trade, the house boat was an oasis that provided pure joy after 50 days on the truck. With a chef on board meals were prepared, dishes were washed by the crew and with nothing much to do mornings were lazy, afternoons indulgent and evenings drunken. In some down time I utilised one of the crews fishing rods and caught my own fish- my very first,a palm sized Zambezi bream (not a bad start to my professional fishing career)... better watch out Rex hunt... KP has a rod and knows how to use it.

Lots of love.


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